12/30/2011 07:35 EST | Updated 02/27/2012 05:12 EST

The Biggest Story of 2011 for Me? South Sudan's Independence


In choosing what could be the biggest story of 2011, it would be simplest to just opt for the familiar -- the global economic downturn, Canada's decline among the nations, the capture of Osama Bin Laden, the Japanese tsunami. For some reason the negative fits in big when we think of the previous 12 months. But hidden behind it all was a remarkable development that took decades to attain and which stands to challenge our prevalent view of Africa.

When the Republic of South Sudan became the world's newest nation on July 9 of this year, it largely flew under the radar screen, with people forgetting that it cost nearly three million lives to arrive at a place of peace. Yet following decades of international involvement and a determination for peace both in North and South Sudan, the seemingly impossible happened -- South Sudan had achieved independence on peaceful terms.

I started 2011 on the ground in South Sudan as an international observer monitoring the referendum vote that ultimately produced the result of massive support for independence. What the world had thought was impossible had come to pass, under the watchful eye of numerous international institutions. It was a remarkable culmination of the journey to peace. A new country doesn't appear every year, but South Sudan's independence has been one of the shining jewels in 2011's crown.